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Morris Area One Act Play cast ready for state festival

The Morris Area One Act Play ensemble will be taking "Lysistrata Interruptae" to the state competition.

Morris Area won its section contest unanimously last weekend, and will perform at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Class A festival at O'Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul.

It's Morris Area's first trip to state since 2004.

"We're stoked," said director Dave Johnson. "The students had an outstanding performance (at sections), and they knew that whether they took first or not, they could feel really good about having a great performance at sections."

The Class AA and Class A competitions are Thursday and Friday, Feb. 12-13. It's the 61st annual Minnesota State High School League One Act Play Festival.

It is a festival - not a competition. However, each production will be judged and publicly critiqued immediately following each performance.

Each cast will attempt to achieve an exceptional rating known as a "starred performance." In 2008, for example, five of the 16 plays, three from Class AA and two from Class A, were awarded "starred performance" ratings.

Park Rapids Area leads all qualified schools by making its 24th festival appearance, while Anoka, which is making its 19th appearance, is the leader among Class AA schools. There are no first-time qualifiers this year, however, all but three are making appearances that number in the single digits.

Thursday's festival-opening production will be " 'night, Mother" by Eastview High School and the day concludes with "After Magritte" by Dassel-Cokato High School. The other selections to be presented on Thursday by Class AA schools are "The Bald Soprano," "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," "The Exonerated," "Twilight of the Golds," "Charity," and "Mr. Ginsburg."

The curtain opens on Friday with "slasreveR neveS" (read it backwards) by Pipestone Area High School and the day's concluding play will be "Orphan Trains" by Belle Plaine High School. The other Class A productions scheduled on Friday are "Art," "The Ice Fishing Play," "Lysistrata Interruptae," "Said and Meant - Short Plays About Language and Misunderstandings," "Oedipus the King," and "Blues."

The plays are limited to no more than 35 minutes, following a maximum 10-minute stage setup. Total cast and crew cannot exceed 20 students.

The Spotlight on the Arts Award of Excellence will also be presented at the 2009 festival, a unique form of recognition for fine arts participants.

"Lysistrata Interruptae" was conceived by the Morris Area students and Johnson after learning of another Minnesota One Act cast encountering censorship of its performance of "Lysistrata."

The students all contributed to the script, which was written with the help of Morris poet and authoer, Athena Kildegaard.

"That's what made their performances to good," Johnson said. "They created the play and they are so close to their characters that it's very real, very believable and very emotional. They told the story in a very powerful way."

Judges, other directors and students congratulated the Morris Area cast for their performance and their story, Johnson said, who added that he heard a number of censorship stories from other directors in the competions.

"Every high school director on the planet has had to deal with these questions," Johnson said. "What can you put on the stage and how will people react to it. In some cases, a difference of opinion can create some serious conflicts."

This will be Morris Area's 12th state performance, and the school earned starred performance rankings in 1963, 1978, 1999, 2000 and 2004.